Hidden Lake Lookout & Lake Diablo / by Andrew Tat

With my friend Amy back in town from San Francisco, we headed towards the North Cascades to overnight at Hidden Lake Lookout. Unfortunately, despite our best preparations and GPS, we were uncomfortable with the low visibility and quickly disappearing light and decided to attempt the lookout another time. Below is my trip report from WTA:


With the intent of spending the night at the lookout, my friend and I departed for the trailhead and arrived around 11:30am. The road up to the trailhead was pretty solid, with the last hill before the parking lot being the sketchiest part as my 4x4 slipped a tiny bit on iced-over tracks.

We started on the trail around 12:15pm with snowshoes strapped to our packs. Around 2pm, as we were making our way up the switchbacks, we put our snowshoes on.

 
Yours truly as we broke free of the dense forest of the beginning of the trail and reached snow-covered switchbacks. Photo by  Amy .

Yours truly as we broke free of the dense forest of the beginning of the trail and reached snow-covered switchbacks. Photo by Amy.

 

About 10 minutes after, another hiker came down and mentioned there were a couple skiers skinning up ahead of us to spend the night at the lookout. 

Until this point, the trail was well marked. As we traversed south through snow-covered boulders, the trail was visible thanks to the ski tracks of the skiers in front of us, but the trail was disappearing as snow continued to fall. 

Around 4pm and about 1.2 miles from the lookout, we ran into a solo hiker on his way down who was unable to find the lookout. With the weather ever-so-slight clearing up and a fresh track to follow, we decided to continue on. However, 15 minutes later, with about a mile left to the lookout, we swung around and started heading back to the trailhead. We figured with a hiker ahead of us being unable to find the lookout even with a GPS, and sunset quickly approaching, we would be rushing to find the lookout in very low visibility. 

 
The view from our turnaround point about 1 mile from the lookout. Photo by  Amy .

The view from our turnaround point about 1 mile from the lookout. Photo by Amy.

 

On our way down, about 30 minutes from our turnaround point, we passed by a group of 4 headed up to the lookout. As we made our way back down the trail, we made good time as the trail was easily visible. The weathered cleared for a little bit and we stopped to take a quick photo.

The weather started clearing up as we reached the switchbacks on our way back to the trailhead. Photo by  Amy .

The weather started clearing up as we reached the switchbacks on our way back to the trailhead. Photo by Amy.

Around 6:45pm, we arrived back at the trailhead and setup camp for the night. The next morning, we broke camp and I tested the sketchy hill section right before the trailhead parking. 

Full Disclosure: I may have been overly cautious, but my 4x4 was slipping even with a slow, controlled, braking descent. I managed to get the car to stop, and started raking the road in front to expose some dirt as I wanted to have more traction for this exposed section of road. A few cars came up on our way down. After shimmying around and entering the more forested part of the road, I was able to drive more confidently all the way down to Cascade River Road and home.

 
The exposed section I wasn't sure about driving down. Photo by  Amy .

The exposed section I wasn't sure about driving down. Photo by Amy.

 

Had we started earlier from the trailhead, or made faster progress through the first stretch of dense forest and switchbacks, I think we would've had enough time to get close to the lookout and use our GPS to hone in on the location. Regardless, it was a really fun hike. With all of the fresh and falling snow, everything was beautiful and our first snowshoe of the season is in the books!


Another reason Amy and I turned around was because Amy was in town only for a few days and wanted to be able to see more of the North Cascades. So, instead of running the risk of a snowy bivy that night, we decided to head back to the car and comfortably hang out for the night with our whiskey hot chocolates.

The next day, after we made it through the exposed section of the forest road leading to the trailhead, we made our way to Lake Diablo. The lake was stunning as the weather had cleared up and fall colors were lingering ever so slightly.

We had a quick mountain portrait session.

And headed back home. Solid trip all together. My first snowshoe of the season is in the books, and Amy's first snowshoe AND backpacking trip in Washington is officially a wrap. Hidden Lake, we'll be back for ya.